Source: Sepulveda, Luis, et al. The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly. Scholastic Press, 2003.
“You are a seagull. The chimpanzee is right about that, but only about that. We all love you, Lucky. And we love you because you are a seagull. A beautiful seagull. I haven’t contradicted you when I’ve heard you squawk that you’re a cat, because it flatters us that you want to be like us, but you’re different and we’re happy that you’re different. We’re weren’t able to help your mother, but we can help you. We’ve protected you from the moment you pecked your way out of your shell. We’ve given you all our affection without ever thinking of making a cat out of you. We love you as a gull. We feel that you love us too, that we’re your friends, your family, and we want you to know that with you we’ve learned something that make us very proud: We’ve learned to appreciate and respect and love someone who’s different from us. It’s very easy to accept and love those who are like us, but to love someone different is very hard, and you have helped us do that. Your are a seagull, and you must follow your destiny as a seagull. You must fly. When you do learn, Lucky, I promise you that you’ll be happy, and then your feelings toward us and ours for you will be even deeper and more beautiful because it will be affection between totally different creatures” (91-92).
There are many things going on in this particular passage. Because the author (as well as the translator) intentionally sets the footing to be closer and less formal to the audience (mostly children and young adults), conversational language and contractions are used multiple times. In addition, since the passage is an advice from Zorba to Lucky, who is younger than him, anaphora uses like “we’ve” and we’ve learned” make Zorba’s advice more mnemonic. The main message of the passage is effectively highlighted with the colon.
Since The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly (it’s interesting how it is a Seagull and the Cat) is a novel originally aimed toward children, the overall language is simple, matching its beautifully innocent and heart-warming story where animals, not humans are the main casts. Following Zorba, a fat black cat and his promise with Kenya, a mother seagull killed by the oil in the sea, that he will not eat her egg, take care of the egg until it hatches into Lucky and teach Lucky how to fly, the story unfolds into a journey of love, family and facing difficulties between animals that would put humans to shame. The passage above is perhaps the most meaningful moment of the story: knowing that Lucky, the baby seagull, struggles with her difference from Zorba and the cats who have been raising her, Zorba teaches her a lesson of being herself and following her destiny as a seagull to learn to fly. However, Zorba doesn’t stop there. He also teaches Lucky to “appreciate and respect and love someone who’s different from us”: a lesson easy to understand yet difficult to do. With personification of the animals, this lesson also reaches us humans and makes us ponder about how we treat one another. This is what makes the passage more impactful, poignant and thought-triggering to readers; it is surprising how such a seemingly simple passage can contain so much.